BBB Warns Consumers To Be On The Lookout for Storm Chasers

March 19, 2013

Many parts of the state experienced storm damage last night.  Severe weather can cause damage that prompts homeowners to seek repairs in a hurry. The Better Business Bureau advises consumers to take a deep breath and check contractors out before signing a contract.

Consumers may feel like their repairs are an emergency that must be fixed immediately.   But they may end up regretting a quick decision if the contractor fails to do the work or does it poorly.  Consumers need to make sure that the contractors they hire are qualified and reliable before they sign a contract or pay any money.

BBB has the following tips for hiring contractors:

Beware of storm chasers. In the wake of a storm, fly-by-night repair businesses will solicit work, often door-to-door, in unmarked trucks. They might require advance payment and make big promises on which they won’t be able to deliver. Be cautious of door-to-door salespeople who use high-pressure sales tactics.

Vet the contractor carefully. Verify the business meets all state and local requirements including being licensed, insured and bonded. Also ask the business for references from recent jobs.  Confirm whether or not the contractor will be subcontracting the job or relying on their own employees.

Seek at least three bids from prospective contractors based on the same specifications, materials and labor needed to complete the project. Homeowners should discuss bids in detail with each contractor and ask questions about variations in pricing. The lowest-priced contractor may not be the best.

Consumers should ask whether the company is insured against claims covering workers’ compensation, property damage and personal liability in case of accidents. Consumers should obtain the name of the insurance carrier and call to verify coverage.  Ask whether the contractor meets licensing and bonding requirements set by the state, county or city.

Check with local authorities to find out whether permits are needed before proceeding with the work. The contractor also should be aware of any required permits.

Ask whether the contractor will provide a lien waiver upon completion of the job. A lien waiver is a statement by the contractor that all suppliers and subcontractors have been paid for their work.  If this is not provided, you could be responsible for all payments to the subcontractors.

Read and understand the contract before signing. Make sure everything is in writing. Make sure that the full scope of the work is explained in the contract including cleanup and disposal of waste. All verbal agreements need to be included in the written agreement. Pay close attention to the payment terms, estimated price of materials and labor and any warranties or guarantees. Include start and completion dates in the contract.

Remember the rule of thirds. Pay one third at the start of the project, one third when work is 50 percent completed and one third after completion.

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